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College Basketball: Week 6 Big Ten Power Rankings

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Michigan Wolverines Rise To Top Spot

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I have to admit. deciding on the top team in my power rankings this week was not easy.

I thought about leaving the Indiana Hoosiers at No. 1 even though they were tripped up by Butler on Saturday. I only say that because while the Hoosiers did lose, a part of me believes they are still the best team in the conference.

Putting Ohio State at No. 1 was an option as well. After all, it's only loss was to Duke on the road and the Buckeyes have a lot of potential. If Ohio State can get the job done against Kansas, it has a chance to be at the top next week.

For now, I've decided to bring Michigan into the top spot. The Wolverines are No. 2 in the nation and have yet to lose. So this week, they are my top team in the Big Ten, which right now, doesn't say a whole lot because we won't really know who the best teams truly are until they start playing each other.

I left Indiana in the top three and Ohio State is also in my top three. Minnesota and Illinois round out my top five.

Overall, the Big Ten teams continue to look impressive for the most part. Six teams are nationally ranked and only one team has a losing record. Four of those teams are ranked in the top 10.

As we inch toward the start of Big Ten play, it's safe to say my power rankings are going to change a lot more often. So without further delay, enjoy this week's look at the power rankings and have a wonderful Christmas.

As always, feel free to follow me on Twitter @BLester1993 or send me an email at

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No. 12 - Purdue Boilermakers

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Perhaps there is still hope for Purdue. The Boilermakers ended a two-game losing streak on Tuesday night by knocking off Ball State 66-56.

A.J. Hammons stepped up and led Purdue (5-6) with 15 points, and perhaps it will be the type of performance that will catapult him into a place where is a consistent scorer in double figures. Hammons is currently averaging 9.6 points per game.

The Boilermakers are averaging only 66.6 points per outing as a team, and with Terone Johnson the only player in double figures, they need others to step up if they are going be a team that can be competitive in the league. Hammons has to be one of those players.

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No. 11 - Penn State Nittany Lions

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Penn State has won three of its last four, including grinding out an 80-76 overtime win over Delaware State on Saturday.

The Nittany Lions (6-4) have managed to stay above .500 despite losing Tim Frazier and the play of D.J. Newbill has been key for them. He has scored 41 points in the last two games and is averaging 15.6 points per game.

The problem for Penn State is that not only does it lack offensive punch -- only four players are averaging at least 7 points per outing --- but it has had issues on defense at times. The Nittany Lions are allowing 67.2 points per outing, which isn't bad, but it will need to improve if they are going to be a decent team in the Big Ten.

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No. 10 - Nebraska Cornhuskers

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Nebraska found a way to survive against Jacksonville State on Tuesday, winning 59-55 as it ended a two-game losing streak.

The Cornhuskers (7-3) still have a long way to go to be a competitive team in the conference and there could be some long nights for them if the 60-38 loss to Oregon is any indication.

Still, I like the way players such as Dylan Talley, Brandon Ubel and Ray Gallegos have stepped up for the Cornhuskers. All three are averaging 11 or more points per game and they need to provide as much scoring as possible for Nebraska to succeed.

The Cornhuskers haven't been bad defensively, giving up less than 60 points per game, but unless they can be more productive on offense, it will be tough to win games against the better teams in the Big Ten.

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No. 9 - Northwestern Wildcats

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Some people are ready to say Northwestern has no chance at making the NCAA tournament for the first time in program history.

The Wildcats have struggled as of late, barely beating Texas State on Monday as they came away with a 74-68 win.

But the Wildcats (8-3) still have a chance to get themselves on track. But it's going to take some big-time performances from Dave Sobolewski and a lot of help around him. It's also going to require the Wildcats to hang their hat on defense. If that doesn't happen, then yes, Northwestern is probably headed to the NIT.

We will know a lot more about the Wildcats once they get into conference play. For now, I won't sell their NCAA chances.

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No. 8 - Wisconsin Badgers

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Wisconsin's last loss was against Marquette as it was beaten by 10, but the Badgers (7-4) bounced back with a win over Green Bay and they still have a winning record.

There is no question that players such as Jared Berggren, Ben Brust and Ryan Evans have to be able to consistently step up for Wisconsin to be productive on offense, but the key for the Badgers is going to be what they do on the defensive end of the floor.

Their defense has kept them in games, and if they are going to once again be one of the better teams in the Big Ten, they need to dig deep on that end of the floor night in and night out.

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No. 7 - Iowa Hawkeyes

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Iowa has rattled off four consecutive wins and the momentum it has built could serve it well as it prepares for the Big Ten season.

The Hawkeyes (9-2) took down Northern Iowa 80-73 on Saturday and have scored 80 or more in each of their last four wins. Roy Devyn Marble broke free for a 30-point performance in the win over Northern Iowa and he is averaging 15.1 points per outing. He has to bring it every night once the Big Ten season starts, and if players such as Aaron White and Mike Gessell can be consistent scoring threats, the Hawkeyes will indeed end up much better than expected.

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No. 6 - Michigan State Spartans

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Five consecutive wins have given Michigan State a little momentum, and while all have come against average opponents, the Spartans have shown that they are once again going to be tough on defense.

Good defense has always been a trademark of the No. 19 Spartans (10-2) under Tom Izzo and I expect that to continue once they hit the Big Ten season.

Keith Appling and Gary Harris have been solid scorers and will continue to step up, but one thing the Spartans have to work on is cutting down turnovers. They average 15.6 per outing and can't afford to give opponents extra possessions if they want to contend for the conference title.

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No. 5 - Illinois Fighting Illini

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It's crazy to think that Illinois would be one of two unbeaten teams in the Big Ten at this point in the season. But here the Fighting Illini are, sitting at No. 10 in the country and unbeaten through 12 games.

Illinois' latest win came against Eastern Kentucky as it picked up a 66-53 win on Sunday.

Brandon Paul scored 17 in the win and is the leading scorer for the Fighting Illini at 18.8 points per outing The Illini will go as far as Paul can take them.

Illinois continues to thrive on the 3-point shot and has knocked down 120 on the season. The thing I really like about the Illini, though, is how hard they play on defense. If that continues to be the case, they are going to be one of the top five teams in the league all year.

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No. 4 - Minnesota Golden Gophers

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Minnesota (11-1) has won its last seven games and Rodney Williams has been a big factor twice in the last four games as he has led the team in scoring.

Williams dropped in 19 points in the Golden Gophers' 70-57 win over North Dakota State and is second on the team in scoring at 13.4 points per game. As long as he keeps stepping up, Minnesota is going to be fine. This is a team with a lot of offensive options and there is no question that Minnesota is a legit contender for the conference crown.

The No. 13 Golden Gophers are shooting nearly 50 percent from the field (46.6) and have been tough defensively, holding opponents to 37.1 percent shooting.

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No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes

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Ohio State (9-1) had a little trouble dealing with Winthrop, but overall, the Buckeyes are still easily on eo of the top three teams in the conference.

Deshaun Thomas remains one of the top scoring threats in the conference and he has been a go-to guy for the sixth-ranked Buckeyes all season.

Aaron Craft hasn't been a big-time scorer, but he doesn't need to be for the seventh-ranked Buckeyes to be successful. As long as Craft makes plays on offense and gives everything he has on the defensive end of the floor, Ohio State is going to be a tough team to beat on any given night.

It will be interesting to see how this team handles its test against Kansas this weekend. I don't think it's a make-or-break game for the team, but at the very least we'll have a better idea of how good the Buckeyes can be this season.

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No. 2 Indiana Hoosiers

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Indiana was finally beaten, but I can't say that I am completely surprised. The Hoosiers were given all they could handle against an under-rated Butler team and they simply didn't make enough plays defensively down the stretch to seal the deal.

Still, the No. 6 Hoosiers (9-1) are a good basketball team with the chance to not only win the Big Ten, but to win a national title as well.

Their depth is phenomenal and they have a lot of options on offense, starting with player of the year candidate Cody Zeller. The thing the Hoosiers have to understand is that every opponent will give them their best shot and if the Hoosiers show up ready to handle that challenge. If they do that, they will be fine. If they don't, there is a chance the Big Ten title won't end up in Bloomington at the end of the year.

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No. 1 Michigan Wolverines

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Welcome to the top Michigan Wolverines. Can they stay there? Well, that remains to be seen. At some point, even their perfect run is going to end.

The No. 2 Wolverines (11-0) rocked West Virginia, 81-66, and they did it behind a 27-point performance from Trey Burke. Burke has been vital to the success of the Wolverines, averaging 18 points per game and dishing out 77 assists to make the Wolverines' versatile and dangerous offense go.

It's going to take a tremendous effort to beat Michigan, just as it took a tremendous effort to beat Indiana. The Wolverines, though, are going to be in the mix for the conference crown and if they can continue to get the job done on both ends of the floor, they have a real chance of being the champs of the Big Ten when it's all said and done.